Cristen Mitchell is a native of Draper, Virginia and currently lives in Christiansburg with her husband, Brandon and daughter, Anna. She is the full-time Director of Worship Arts at Blacksburg United Methodist Church in Blacksburg, VA. There she oversees the music and worship arts ministries and works with a variety of choral and instrumental ensembles in leading worship. Cristen is the founding president of The Voices of Appalachia and now serves as the Artistic Director. Previously, she served as the assistant director for the Blacksburg Children’s Chorale.
Cristen is a Doctor of Pastoral Music Candidate at Southern Methodist University, holds a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from James Madison University, a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Radford University, and a Church Music Certificate from Virginia Wesleyan College. Cristen has traveled with her choirs to perform at venues such as Carnegie Hall, and she has been a soloist on stage at the Lincoln Center. She was the 2018 recipient of the John & Mary Virginia Foncannon Choral Conducting/Sacred Music Scholarship, and the 2019 recipient of the John & Mary Foncannon Choral Conducting/Coaching Scholarship.
Matthew Boutda is a conductor, organist, and singer from Toronto, Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Sacred Music degree from the University of Toronto. Currently, he is pursuing his Master of Music in Literature and Performance, studying
choral conducting with Mark Ramsay at the University of Western in London, Ontario.
With a passion and desire for choral music, Matthew is delighted to be a part of the rich music program as Director of Music at Leaside United Church, in Toronto. Here, he plays the organ, conducts, and oversees the Leaside Chancel Choir, Junior Choir, and C-Flats Youth Jazz Band.
As a conductor, Matthew has been the Assistant Conductor of Pax Christi Chorale, one of Canada’s finest oratorio choirs in Toronto for the past three years.
Recently, Matthew helped to form the Uniting Voices Collective. This is a group of musicians that are dedicated to sustaining community through shared song during this time of physical distancing. Uniting Voices Collective has provided and continues to provide interactive virtual sessions that inform and uplift choristers, directors and musicians.
Anneli Loepp Thiessen is a PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Music Research program at the University of Ottawa, where her studies with Dr. Jada Watson promote an interdisciplinary musicological approach to issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the contemporary worship music industry. Anneli is the co-director of the Anabaptist Worship Network, and was a committee member for the new Mennonite hymnal, Voices Together. She holds her ARCT in Piano Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music, a graduate diploma in Arts Management from Queen’s University, and was named a Yamaha Fellow of the Eastman Leadership Academy in 2020. She enjoys writing music for worship, guiding youth in uncovering their song leading abilities, and helping communities consider how their congregational song can be more inclusive.
Megan Mash began serving as the Music Minister at Sebastian United Methodist Church in August 2010. She attended Simpson College in Indianola, IA and graduated summa cum laude earning a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Religion. In May 2010 Megan graduated magna cum laude with a Master’s of Sacred Music with a concentration in organ from Perkins School of Theology at SMU. Here she studied with Larry Palmer, David R. Davidson, Julie Scott and Michael Hawn and Christopher Anderson. She served as Dean of the Treasure Coast Chapter of AGO for the 2017-2018 season.
Slats Toole is a musician, writer, educator, preacher and theater director/sound designer based in Minneapolis, MN. They are an active member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and have had formative experience in Baptist (CBF and Alliance), United Methodist, Episcopal, and Reformed churches. They hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and a Master of Divinity and Certificate in Theology, Women and Gender from Princeton Theological Seminary. They serve on the Friends of NEXT Church team, and are the resident sound designer for the In[heir]itance Project.
Slats’ Lenten poetry series has been compiled in the collection Queering Lent, and their work has also been published in “History of Hymns”, Call to Worship, Sacramental Life, and The Presbyterian Outlook. They have been a featured guest artist with A Sanctified Art. Slats has led workshops on expansive language and queer theology (with a particular emphasis on gender identity) throughout the United States and Canada. Slats’ work centers around creating space in the church where all are welcomed, embraced, and loved.